Idris Goodwin is an award-winning playwright, director, orator, and educator. He is the Producing Artistic Director of Stage One Family Theater in Louisville, KY for which he penned the produced And In This Corner: Cassius Clay. His play, HYPE MAN: a break beat play is making its New York City premiere and is the third production in our 2018/19 COLOR BRAVE Season. The play follows a front man, hype man, and beat maker are on the verge of hitting it big when yet another police shooting shakes them to the core. We caught up with Idris to talk hip-hop theater and his goals for the New York premiere of HYPE MAN.
Thank you, Idris, for hanging out with me today and for writing this play that fits into our COLOR BRAVE season. HYPE MAN still in previews, is already impacting its audience members. When you wrote the play what were some of your inspirations?
There were a few sparks. The title HYPE MAN had been floating around my head for a while as a potential entry in my break beat play series. These plays explore hip-hop’s impact on America. The dynamic of a rapper and a hype man was fertile for performance possibility and dramatic conflict. And hype men and women are necessary but stay the unsung heroes of hip-hop. Another spark was from rapper David Banner in his 2014 BET performance: “Where were the white rappers when they mowed Mike Brown down?”
Issues of race cannot only be an issue for victims of racism. The final spark was from my very own life, navigating issues of race with white colleagues and friends.
There‘s a line in your play “If they knew us, they wouldn’t kill us.” It gets me every time as the actor shouts these words. The bond of your three characters, Pinnacle, Verb, and Peep One is clear. They are close, and their bond adds to tension because they care so much. Their shared love of hip-hop has put them the same room. Why hip-hop?
The lyrics in a lot of hip-hop music talk about family bonds. For these characters this is their family and through hip-hop they are exercising the liberties of the first amendment without an apology, but with loyalty. Hip-hop allows these characters to communicate with a rebellious spirit that is found in hip-hop music.
One might say your play is asking “What happens when white people enter this space?” The space referring to the hip-hop industry.
Yes, for sure! A white rapper is less of an anomaly than in previous times but what is rare is the number of white artists working in the world of hip-hop who speak up on behalf of issues that matter to Black people and whose innovations they are enjoying.
Sitting in the rehearsal room with The Bats, are there any new discoveries?
With any production, I‘ve had the pleasure of having multiple productions, it occurs to me that no matter age, race, or shape theatergoers enjoy meeting characters that are honest and accessible. The theater offers a window into the world of others. The Flea‘s putting the production “in-the-round” makes it impossible to not be in-the-room, and this creates something new each night. I‘m excited about New York audiences to experience this moment in these characters’ lives.
This season, The Flea examines radical conflict while addressing the difficult and complex climate our country has been facing since its inception. One thread that connects each of the plays in the COLOR BRAVE Season, beyond their examination of race, is the question of justice and how one goes about getting it.
What does justice look like? What are the risks to gain it? When hurt the desire for justice is often rooted in a violence and we see this acted out in the first two productions of the season. In both Emma and Max and Scraps, we witnessed Black characters commit murder to get justice after being repeatedly harmed by acts of racism, misogyny, and xenophobia. Actions that also enacted well-deserved revenge. HYPE MAN: a break beat play, our third production in the COLOR BRAVE season troubles the waters even more by asking us — Will you speak up for justice — even if it means losing everything you’ve worked so hard for?
With the ever-present pulse of ‘NO JUSTICE. NO PEACE’, I’m proud to be an active company member at The Flea while as a community we are speaking loud and clear about the dire need for justice in this world and questioning our actions on how to get there. The question remains — what will you do?
The Flea gathered together on the evening of Tuesday September 25 at the Tribeca Rooftop for a party we called THE FLEA’S GOT TALENT, a night to celebrate The Bats Past and Present. The evening was emceed by former Bats, McCarthy genius Taylor Mac and Obie Award Winning Kate Benson, starred former Bats Deborah S. Craig and Julia Anrather and featured a host of current Bats who sang and danced their way into the hearts of our 200 Flea guests. Board Members, Flea members, family and friends toasted, raised their paddles, dined on elegant food and downed delectable wine and ended the evening watching the cloudy skies part and the full moon rise over Lower Manhattan.
Being color brave is the centerpiece of Scraps. This urgent way of talking about race is not only refreshing but it’s necessary—the absence of honesty is what prevents human beings from achieving growth.
Scraps is color brave by treating its characters, black people who have suffered immense trauma, with an empathy and understanding that they are often excluded from while indicting whiteness for its role in their suffering.
I chose the topic of police violence as a vehicle for my actual goal: to urge audiences to analyze trauma, to realize it doesn’t end after the event but instead reverberates throughout the lives of those implicated forever. We must acknowledge that Black Americans are starting from a place where trauma is inherited through ancestry and perpetuated through systematic conditions. That we are all complicit in institutionalized racism. And if we continue to only engage in surface-level conversations about race, that prevent us from feeling uncomfortable, we are only asking for things to stay the same.
Scraps is a provocative play that may cause discomfort, but I hope that it enables audiences to make a step forward, even if that means just making room to listen to my characters for 90-minutes.
David Prittie, the gifted designer, beloved colleague, dear friend and stalwart collaborator of The Flea passed away unexpectedly and untimely. This is an unadulterated song of praise for David who was the inspired, precise and inventive graphic visionary of The Flea Theater. Since our founding in 1996, David guided the graphic appearance of our theater down to the letter – establishing the font used in our stationary, designing and evolving our logo through the years , mastering the signage both inside and out of our building and perhaps most significantly and elegantly – interpreting most of our productions for poster and postcard art.
One of David’s most exceptional talents was his ability to give both visual display and graphic life to a play from just reading a script. His careful use of both font and design combined to create the illustrated explanation of our work. His careful graphic blueprints pushed The Flea to the design forefront and we are often noted for our clean and clear graphics. His poster art adorns every wall of The Flea. Each one is different and yet so unmistakably his.
David also designed and directed all of The Flea’s institutional promotional materials. He mastered gala invitations, reading announcements, seasonal brochures, Variety and New York Times advertisements, not to mention mugs, umbrellas, tee shirts, hats and tote bags. The Flea’s logo is instantly recognizable and our company members scrambled to possess a David Prittie Flea gift at our production opening night parties. Jim Simpson’s bike on our White Street logo, the red beanie at our groundbreaking, the Bat on our coffee mugs – all of these bear the imprint of David Prittie.
Finally, David was instrumental to the success of The Flea’s capital campaign – our project to build a three theater performing arts complex for Lower Manhattan. Since the inception of the idea, David has tackled all of the graphic and visual elements – including humanizing architectural drawings, envisioning donor walls, designing theater signage and tackling every fundraising brochure. His range was extraordinary.
We cannot fail to mention that David was exacting and that his intense attention to detail from proofing text to defining the color palette made his work that much more special. There was nothing too small to escape his scrutiny.
His winning smile and handsome face, his kind words for everything and everyone, his attendance at every production and his honest devotion and attention to our theatrical expression will not be replicated or replaced. We do not know how we will go on without him. We do know that he has set the bar for The Flea. He is deeply mourned and dearly missed.
Thursday, June 21st
12:30pm – 7pm
Outside of The Flea
20 Thomas Street
Clothes! Props! Theatrical Magic!
One theater’s trash is another person’s treasure –
and nothing’s being sold for more than $5.
Rain or shine, you won’t want to miss
these fabulous finds!
The Flea proudly announces the 11 selected playwrights for its newly created SERIALS Writers Room! Since its inception in 2011, the late night programming series for adventurous audiences has served as one of The Flea’s hallmarks. The inaugural SERIALS Writers Room playwrights were chosen from over 100 candidates and include Niccolo Aeed, Oscar A. L. Cabrera, Chloé Hayat, Lily Houghton, Brian Kettler, Yilong Liu, Matthew Minnicino, Liz Morgan, Jessica Moss, Madhuri Shekhar and Marina Tempelsman.
The Flea’s Artistic Director Niegel Smith says of the new initiative, “So many of New York’s talented early career actors and directors get started with a residency at The Flea, it only made sense that we begin to serve playwrights in the same way. From pitch to production these passionate and skilled playwrights will be actively writing the culture of today. We’re all in and can’t wait to share with audiences the compelling and diverse stories they are dreaming up.”
The SERIALS Writers’ Room will be a year-long commitment. Writers will be assigned to a SERIALS team, featuring a director and a group of Bats, The Flea’s resident acting company. Over the course of the year there will be eight cycles of SERIALS. Playwrights will write on a rotating basis: if your play is not voted back, you will get a few cycles off until it is your turn to launch another series with a new pilot.
SERIALS returns to The Flea for its 45th cycle from June 7-16. Performances are on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 11pm. Tickets cost $12 and include a free beer. Purchase tickets by calling 212-352-3101 or online at www.theflea.org.
Niccolo Aeed is a black/palestinian writer and director based in New York. He is half the comedy duo Marina & Nicco, whose sketches and short films have been featured on The New Yorker, Comedy Central, Funny or Die and many more. Marina & Nicco’s plays have been produced at HERE Arts Center, The People’s Improv Theater, New Ohio Theater and Ars Nova. Individually Nicco has written and directed plays for The New York Fringe Festival, the Philly Fringe Festival, NY Summerfest and 7×7. He has written and directed sketch comedy at The Upright Citizens Brigade Theater and The People’s Improv Theater and teaches storytelling with The Moth. For more of Marina & Nicco’s work check out www.MarinaAndNicco.com.
Oscar A. L. Cabrera is a New York-based actor/playwright born and bred in the panhandle of Texas. Both a son to parents who worked two jobs each and the brother of a sibling with autism, his upbringing has crafted a lens for finding the extraordinary out of the common place. His plays have been developed and produced by The Public Theater, INTAR Theater, Rising Circle, Creede Rep, BRIC, NY Madness, Black and Latino Playwrights Conference, and OMPF. He is a current member of EWG at the Public, company member of INTAR’s Unit52, and co-creator of the NYC Latinx Playwrighting Circle.
Chloé Hayat is a Lebanese-American playwright and dramaturg from Roosevelt Island, New York. She graduated from SUNY Purchase with a degree in Playwriting & Screenwriting and a minor in History. She is the co-founder of After-School Special Theatre, a company of scrappy young female-identifying writer/producers that values accessible, organic, and experimental theatre. She is passionate about finding new ways to make theatre possible with excited and challenging collaborators. Her work has been seen and developed as a part of Young Playwrights Inc., SUNY Purchase’s New Plays Now festival and most recently her first Paranormal Play Spirit Journeyz was performed as part of Clubbed Thumb’s Summerworks readings. She’s a professional makeup artist, an amateur baker, a perfectly fine belly dancer, and the owner of a piece of the Abraham Lincoln deathbed. Chloé is fascinated by ghosts, historical women, stories about delusion, and is currently engrossed by the theatricality of reality television.
Lily Houghton is a twenty-three-year-old playwright born and raised in Manhattan. She wrote her first play at age seventeen before completing her B.A. at Bennington College last May. Her plays have been developed at MCC Theater Company, The Flea, EST/Youngblood, Contemporary American Theater Festival/Shepherd University, NYU, 20% Theater Company Chicago, Yale University’s Writers’ Conference, Bennington College, University of Michigan Theater Conservatory, and the Jermyn Street Theatre in London. Her short someone/something/someone/something (EST/ Youngblood) just won a Sloan Foundation Grant. Lily’s play, Dear, received a PlayLab with MCC Theater in the fall of 2017 and a production at Shepherd University/CATF this April. She is a proud member of Ensemble Studio Theatre’s Youngblood. Just announced: Lily has received an Elizabeth George Foundation grant through a commission from Seattle Rep!
Brian Kettler is originally from Portland, Oregon. Like everyone from Portland, Brian enjoys coffee, beer and nature, is obsessed with the Blazers and plays bass in a rock band. He earned his MFA in Playwriting from the University of Texas-Austin, where he studied under Steven Dietz. He is a former recipient of the Oregon Literary Fellowship in Drama.
Last summer, Brian’s full-length play, Poor Boys’ Chorus, premiered in New York City as part of the Broadway Bound Theatre Festival. His short play, Clown Room, was selected for the Theater Masters National MFA Playwrights Festival, with productions in Aspen and New York City. He was recently commissioned by Orphic Theater Company to adapt Euripides’ Iphigenia Among the Taurians and his adaptation, Iphigenia 3.0, was featured in the 2017 Fertile Ground Festival. Brian has worked as a tutor, teaching artist and for the past three years, has coached high school Mock Trial.
Yilong Liu is a New York-based playwright, born and raised in Chongqing, a city in Southwest China. His work has been produced or developed at Stella Adler Studio of Acting, East West Players, Queens Theatre, SPACE on Ryder Farm, WildWind Performance Lab at Texas Tech, FringeNYC, Kumu Kahua Theatre, Living Room Theatre, MOJOAA Performing Arts, and others. Awards include Kennedy Center’s Paul Stephen Lim Playwriting Award (The Book of Mountains and Seas), Paula Vogel Playwriting Award (June is The First Fall, 2nd Place), National Partners of the American Theatre Award for Playwriting (Joker), Po’okela Award for Best New Play (Joker), and a APAFT playwright scholarship. He was a semi-finalist for Bay Area Playwrights Festival and O’Neill Playwrights Conference, a finalist for The New Harmony Project and Lark’s Van Lier New Voices Playwriting Fellowship. When he’s not writing, he’s usually netflixing, people watching, or liking cat posts on instagram. BA: BNU. MFA: UHM. www.YilongLiu.com
Matthew Minnicino is a Virginia-born, Manhattan-based playwright, adaptor, actor, director, teacher, and theatre-maker. He has been a resident with SPACE on Ryder Farm, Exquisite Corpse, Sugarglass Theatre at Trinity College in Dublin, the Barn Arts Collective, Letter of Marque, the box collective, and numerous others. He is a Jeffrey Melnick New Playwright Award Nominee, winner of the 2016 Arts & Letters Prize, and member of Pipeline Theatre’s PlayLab, Everday Inferno’s Writer/Director Lab, Joust Theatre’s Writers’ Round Table, and 2018 Great Plains Theatre Conference PlayLab. He has written for Serials@The Flea, Rule of 7×7, and the NYC Fringe, FauxReal, and Shenandoah Fringe Festivals. He has professionally adapted Chekhov, Strindberg, Ibsen, Gorky, Homer, Euripides, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Moliere, and more. His essays on theatre have been published by The Dramatist, Gathering of the Tribes, and HowlRound. In his spare time, he teaches kids about Shakespeare. MFA: Columbia.
Liz Morgan was raised on oxtail, peas & rice. As an artist raised by two Caribbean doctors, she has maintained a dedication to healing and a taste for all things spicy. She’s been published in HuffPo and developed new stage work with The Fire This Time Festival, The Lark, SPACE on Ryder Farm, Fresh Ground Pepper, Liberation Theatre Company, Judson Arts, Amios, Rising Circle, JACK, NY Madness, POTPOURRI! World Women Works Series, and National Black Theatre where she was named a finalist for the I AM SOUL Playwrights’ Residency. Other honors include the Torchbearer for Black Theatre Award, NYNW Theatre Festival (Finalist), Playwrights Realm Writing Fellowship (Semi-Finalist) and the New Works Lab at Stratford (Semi-Finalist). She holds a Bachelors degree and MFA from Brown University where she received the Davis Wickham Prize for Excellence in Playwriting and once twerked the toga off of a frat boy. www.LizMorganOnline.com
Jessica Moss is an actor, writer, and producer from Toronto, Canada. Her work has been developed or presented at Great Plains Theatre Conference, Roundabout Theatre, Premiere Stages, Kitchen Dog Theatre, the Juilliard School, the Samuel French Off Off Broadway Short Play Festival, the Toronto International Film Festival, and the Canadian Stage Festival of New Ideas and Creation, among others. As an actor, she has appeared in shows with Necessary Angel/Luminato, Tarragon Theatre, SummerWorks, Sudbury Theatre Centre, the NAC, and many times at the Toronto Fringe.
Madhuri Shekar is a playwright from Chennai, India, currently based in New York. Productions include In Love and Warcraft (Alliance Theatre and others; 2013/14 Kendeda Graduate Playwriting Award), A Nice Indian Boy (East West Players and others), Queen (Victory Gardens; Kilroys List 2017) and two TYA shows at the Alliance Theatre. Her plays in development include House of Joy (most recently seen at the Pacific Playwrights Festival and the Bay Area Playwrights Festival) and new commissions from Victory Gardens, Audible and South Coast Repertory. Her work has been developed at the Center Theatre Group, the Old Globe, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Hedgebrook Playwrights Festival, the Kennedy Center, New York Stage and Film, and the Atlantic Theatre.
She is a member of the Ars Nova Playgroup and Ma-Yi Writers Lab, has an MFA in Dramatic Writing from USC, and is a 2016-2018 alum of the playwriting program at Juilliard.
Marina Tempelsman is a writer who was born and raised in New York (where she is still based). She is half the comedy duo Marina & Nicco, whose work has been featured by The New Yorker, Comedy Central, and Funny or Die. Their play Room 4 was a New York Times critic’s pick, and their work has also been featured at HERE Arts Center, Ars Nova, The New Ohio Theater, The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, and The Peoples Improv Theater. They recently co-wrote a sketch comedy pilot for Fusion, and wrote and produced a web pilot (Smüchr) for BRIC TV. In the summer of 2010, Marina was a Guest Artist at the Kennedy Center Summer Playwriting Intensive, where she studied with Theresa Rebeck, Marsha Norman, David Ives, Jason Robert Brown, Gary Garrison, and Heather McDonald, among others. She co-wrote the Comedy Central series At the Office Microwave, and currently teaches and directs for The UCB. www.marinaandnicco.com
YesBroadway just released 40 Under 40: Broadway Class of 2018 and we are thrilled to see some of our favorite Flea-ple listed! Shout out to…
NSangou Njikam, Writer and Cast Member of Syncing Ink (left).
Nuri Hazzard, Cast Member of Syncing Ink (right).
Tedra Millan, Bat Alum (American Song, The Flying Latke, The Wundelsteipen)
LOCKED UP BITCHES began its life as seven episodes in SERIALS (Cycles 26-28, 2015). Get a sneak peak of what life used to be like in Bitchfield!
The Flea officially revealed its new digs on 20 Thomas Street the morning of Thursday, September 28. Check out pictures from the momentous occasion!